Guest Blogger Brendan Heffernan: Meal Planning & Prepping Made Simple: 4 Tips for the Busy Parent!
There are two types of people in this world: those that meal plan and prep, and those that don’t. We all have our own relationships with this term. Some swear by it (ME!), some are frightened and overwhelmed by it (also ME!), some have heard the term only for it to pass through their heads without a second thought – in one ear, and out the other. As a parent, meal planning and prepping may seem impossible but, as someone raising 1 year old and has meal planned and prepped since the day he was born, believe me when I say it can be done! You can throw a rock at the internet and find dozens of articles about meal planning and prepping. I am here to share what has worked for me. I hope they are helpful! But first…
Meal planning vs. meal prepping. What’s the difference!? Meal planning is scheduling out each meal for a certain amount of time and meal prepping is the act of making those meals so they are ready when you need them. Both are important steps in the process and help ease the burden of an entire week of meals by breaking down exactly what meals you will be eating, what groceries are needed to make these meals, and what prepping steps are needed to make these meals. Let’s get into it!
1. Schedule a Time and Stick to it!
You are probably thinking, “I don’t have any time to set aside to meal prep!” to which I can only say to you, “yes, you do.” I know it isn’t what you want to hear but if you want the financial and health benefits of meal prepping then you can make it work. It doesn’t have to be the same day and time each week, but if you know it will take 3 hours (easily doable!) for you to plan, shop, and prep all of your meals, doesn’t that take an awful lot of stress out of your already busy week? Strap on your Nike’s and Just Do It!
2. Simplify Your List: If you are a beginner, ALWAYS make a list!
Lists are life savers. I feel naked without a list at the grocery store and you should too. Don’t go to the grocery store naked. Ever. My list contains two sections: all of our weekly breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and the ingredients needed for those meals. While I am reading off recipes, I take inventory of what we already have at home and what we need and jot those items down. We are not real big snackers so most of what we buy is usually tied up in breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes. But if you like your snacks, be sure to add those too!
3. List #2: Meal Prep Steps!
I’m a list guy. Can you tell? After I get home from the store, I write another list of what I need in order to complete my prep. This is for all of the meals that week, including dinners. If I am making a stir fry that week, I chop and separate the vegetables and just add them to the pan when ready. And so on, and so on. If you are as inept at chopping vegetables as I am, this could save you an extra 15-25 minutes of dinner prep!
4. Mix It Up!
I am constantly mixing it up when it comes to my meal prep menu. If I am bored with a meal (chicken, broccoli, and rice again?!) I will immediately be on the phone to Domino’s. This is a perk of meal prepping though! If you plan out your meals you can create a diverse, customized menu each week. An effective way to accomplish this is by making your own cookbook! All you need is a three-ring binder, a 3-hole punch (I use mine at work), and your favorite recipes, and voila! Then each week, instead of scouring the internet for multiple recipes and trying to keep each tab organized on your phone or computer, you can simply refer back to your own stamped and approved favorite recipes. Since I began meal prepping 4 years ago, I have saved every recipe – dinner, best lunch meal preps, easy sauces, dressings, and dips, and breakfast – that my wife and I love and it is pretty impressive after all that time. There is nothing better than making a meal and getting the nod from my wife to keep the recipe in rotation.
So get out there, make lists, make mistakes, figure out what works for you and your family, and have a blast doing it!
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